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John Q
2002 - PG-13 - 113 Mins.
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Producer: Mark Burg, Oren Koules
Written By: James Kearns
Starring: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Eddie Griffin, Shawn Hatosy, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, James Woods
Review by: Carl Langley
Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors to come into the world of cinema. Time and time again his riveting performances have saved the amateurish, poorly written films he starred in. In 'He Got Game', he portrayed a father released from prison only to persuade his son to attend State College. His presence was the only positive aspect of the film. Even though 'Training Day' was mediocre at best, he dominated the screen as a crooked cop (an unusual role for him) and won his second Academy Award. He has been in unforgettable films ('Glory', 'Malcolm X' and 'The Hurricane'), but it is becoming tiresome to see his talent wasted for movies that either need to be edited, re-written, or not released at all.

'John Q' is not a horrible movie. In fact, it is a heart-warming, family-gathering type of film. Director Nick Cassavetes felt attached to this film because it relates close to home. His daughter Sasha is on a donated organ recipient list as well and he has dedicated his work to her, as “For Sasha” appears just before the end credits. But even with an empathetic, delightful premise and with big names such as Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, and Ray Liotta, John Q ends up being nothing but a silly movie.

John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), otherwise known as John Q., is struggling to pay his bills. His hours at work have been cut from 40 to 20, which ends up being more of a hassle to pay for his wife’s car. When his son collapses on the baseball field during a game, they rush him to the hospital, only to add to their misery. Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods) explains that the son’s heart is three times its normal size and a transplant is needed right away. Hospital director, Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche) tells the Archibald’s that their insurance will not cover the surgery and she will not put their son’s name on the recipient list until they can pay $75,000 of the $250,000 required. After selling and pawning whatever they can, John and Denise Archibald (Kimberly Elise) still come up short. After a persuasive argument with his wife, John becomes motivated to help his son in whatever way he can. So he takes a hospital wing hostage until his son’s name is on the list.

As soon as the hospital emergency room is taken over, 'John Q' becomes a preposterous film. Since when can any normal human, walk into a hospital with a handgun and take it over? The only security guard (Ethan Suplee) is too obese to even move from his chair. Of course, the police surround the hospital and the negotiator (Robert Duvall) and the veteran hotshot chief of police (Ray Liotta) try to mastermind the operation.

Medical and procedural errors contribute to the already shambled script. This was not noticeable at first, but research proved the film wrong medically in many spots. John Q is considered a drama, but action sequences somehow muster their way on screen, only to be viewed as second-rate.

The acting is top-notch and not something to complain about. Denzel Washington’s performance as the desperate father is warm and compassionate. Kimberly Elise is nothing short of outstanding as his wife and their relationship is the best asset of the film. James Woods, Robert Duvall, and Ray Liotta (who is underrated in my opinion) garnish their roles effectively. Amazing that a film can behold so many admirable actors and not gain a single ounce of respect itself.

Overall, John Q is an emotional melodrama with too corny of a script. In fact, the sentiment is too much to bear at times. Denzel Washington should feel conned because it seems he has lent his talents to a non-post production product. But, then again, anything with Denzel Washington is worth a look.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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